In the last couple of weeks, something unusual has been happening in my dreams. I've been in control, and they've been remarkably anxiety free. Two of the major dream paradigms of my lifetime have been, essentially, turned on their heads.
The first is the horror movie dream. Since I was in junior high (and maybe even earlier), I've been haunted by the dream where a killer (usually Michael Myers from HALLOWEEN) stands silently in my room while I lie motionless in my bed. I know that if I make even the slightest motion, the killer will know I'm there and stab me to death. These static dreams go on for what feels like hours in my sleep, and I often wake up feeling exhausted by the strain of balancing absolute stillness with petrifying fear.
I haven't had this one as often in my 30s, but I felt a strong connection to it the other night when I dreamt I was producing a horror movie out of a cavernous office space with my old colleagues from Civilian Pictures. I felt absolutely in control and excited about finally producing my own feature. The film, which we were shooting in black and white, was a modern interpretation of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, and we'd assembled the creepiest looking army of blonde children. They were milling about the set, smiling when off camera and the embodiment of evil when the cameras were rolling (incidentally, feel free to analyze what making this particular movie in my dream has to say about my childless status- I have).
When I woke up I felt empowered and refreshed- now I was calling the shots on the horror in my life.
The second major recurring dream theme has been plaguing me steadily through my 20s and 30s. The details of this one change more often that the killer dream, but the essentials are that I've been skipping a college class all semester long, and now I have to return for a big test and face the music. A common wrinkle is that I haven't been to the class in so long that I've forgotten where it's held and/or I've forgotten where the building it's in is located on campus. I ransack my room looking for the list of classes I'm enrolled in that was issued at the beginning of the semester, but I can never find it. I basically wander around the UNC campus (which always looks pristinely beautiful) gnashing my teeth, beating myself up about waiting so long to address the issue and thinking "How did I think I would get away with not going to class all semester!" (Incidentally, I was a big believer in the "if you go to every class, you don't have to study nearly as hard" school of thought, so this dream pattern isn't even really related to any real-life experience that I'm conscious of.)
I wake up feeling exhausted and depressed by these dreams too, and always deeply disappointed in myself (which as you know is one of the least pleasant emotional states).
Last week I had a dream that turned this one upside-down too. I don't recall the details that well, but the gist of it was that I was now on the faculty at UNC. I sat up at the front of the class, serene and confident, and watched the young clueless students file into my class and then hang on my every word.
This one had an even more profound effect on me when I woke up- I could physically feel that a weight had been lifted, that a chain had been broken. Of course, it's too early to say that I won't be having either of the predecessor dreams any more, but it sure doesn't feel like it.
If I had to guess, I'd say that the catalyst for this internal transition was joining Facebook about three weeks ago. I'd fought the notion of Facebook, thinking that it would a big time-waster and filled with uncomfortable small-talky reunions with people you no longer cared about and/or actively wanted to steer clear of. I joined primarily because it's constantly referred to as an outlet or destination for marketing strategies by the people I work with, and I felt like I could no longer pretend to nod my head knowingly about it.
By connecting to dozens and dozens of people who used to occupy a lot of my headspace but have since drifted away for one reason or another, and doing it all at once, I think my unconscious was forced to assess where my own life is now. More than that, I was forced to see something that I already knew but I suppose isn't all that apparent in one's own day-to-day continuum- I've grown up. I really am 37. I really have friends who have teenage children. I really am looking down the barrel at my 20th high school reunion. And so are a lot of other people... it's happening to everybody.
Thankfully, it seems, the producers of my dream life appear to be growing up too.
1 day ago